Saturday, March 19, 2016

A Different Ratio

A few days ago, Brian and I celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary. I got Steen roughly one year before we married, which means I've had Steen almost eight years. In that time, while we've had plenty of other horses as well and I've spent lots of time riding them, I've always spent more time on Steen than everyone else combined.

For the moment, that has changed. Here's my riding breakdown for 2016 so far:

This is the first year in recorded history I've spent the bulk of my saddle time on a horse other than Steen. Granted, it's only March. There's a solid chance things will shift back. Lately, though, I've been riding Nevada. Quite a lot.

For spring break this year, Brian and I decided to stay home. We didn't work, but we also didn't travel. We adulted a fair bit, doing things like yard work and getting my car to the shop and taking care of lots of the mundane tasks that always seem to get bumped off the bottom of the to-do list. But also, we've ridden horses every day except Tuesday. Which means, after tomorrow, I'll have put eight rides on Nevada in nine days.

Things continue to go really well with her. Her strength and balance have improved a lot in short order. Her walk and trot are solid. We've got cantering working in both directions, her stop is awesome, and all in all she's starting to feel pretty familiar when I swing my leg over her back. She's got over 50 hours of total saddle time under her belt now, 16.5 of those with me in the last few weeks. Her foundation is starting to solidify.

A photo posted by Robin (@aridingrobin) on

The last few rides, I've been adding in more lateral work, including some shoulder yielding exercises I couldn't get working with Steen until I'd had him for about six years. It's interesting, how much a young horse can do when no one has ever taught her to brace or be afraid. When Nevada gets stuck, if I just give her a little time she always tries something. And if it's not the right thing, she tries a different thing. She is the first horse I've ever ridden who has absolutely no defenses in place. She just has no idea that people can be unfair and harsh and confusing. She'd only been haltered a few times before she came to us, and since then only Brian and I have handled her.

To have a slate that clean to work with is pretty great, but it's also challenging in its own way. I don't want to be the first person who lets her down. Riding her is pretty different feel from dinking around on super steady Steen, who went through the ringer before he ever came to me, and who I have made mistake after mistake on while he patiently put up with my failures and progressed in spite of all the times I got in his way.

But spending solid time on Nevada has been super fun, too. A horse with no reason to be defensive learns very quickly. I can't believe how far we've come this week. Hopefully the early spring it looks like we might have will stick around and we can get her out of the arena and into the world a little bit soon.

Horseback Hours YTD: 28:00

Monday, March 07, 2016

Me and Nevada

Nevada is Brian's horse. He got her about a year and a half ago to train up as an eventual replacement for Bear. He got her started and going nicely. Then a combination of life and circumstances and a handful of rough rides got him a bit derailed. We figured out the saddle Brian was riding Nevada in didn't fit her well, but the saddle we had that fit her better has too small a seat for him. He has a hip that gets super sore and inflamed in certain kinds of seats, so he basically couldn't ride her. I rode her a few times in a different saddle and things went quite well. Brian had a new saddle on order so he figured he's just wait for that. But right when it arrived, Nevada injured her leg.

All of a sudden it was early 2016 and the horse that's supposed to turn into Brian's main mount is still super duper green. While we have a saddle that fits both her and him now, the explosions caused by the ill-fitting one were pretty significant. Brian rode through all of the crazy stuff with her, but then came off Laredo kind of hard in the fall (his first wreck in years). All that combined with having several months of barely riding at all left him feeling a certain lack of confidence. We talked it over and decided it might be better for everyone for me to take Nevada over for a while - get her going nicely again and hopefully settled into a good place.

I have spent 6.5 hours on Nevada's back this year, and they've been great. She's really an incredible horse. I'm probably biased, but I don't think it can be denied Brian did a fabulous job starting her. She's super soft, has a great attitude, and has learned to learn really well. This makes her super rewarding to work with. Beyond that, she's athletic, has great gaits, and is naturally a bit more on the forward side than both Laredo and Piper. I prefer horses with more life, so all this suits me just fine. No hint of whatever was bothering her a few months ago has surfaced, and we're feeling more confident together each ride.

Her leg injury caused her to learn to carry herself just a bit crooked, and she doesn't really want to engage behind on the left side sometimes. I've been building her up to bend and balance better bit by bit, and she's getting stronger already. On Sunday we had a nice canter for the first time since last year. When I first put a few rides on her after the times she exploded on Brian, she'd gotten pretty angsty about moving out in general. When asked to canter, she'd careen around at top speed, throwing in some kick-outs here and there. I was prepared for that this time too. Instead she just went into a super smooth, balanced gait. We did a lap and I eased her down to a stop. So, fingers crossed the hardest part about this is going to be giving her back to Brian when the time comes. Here's a little video of one of our early rides:

So that's the Nevada update. I'll do a quick run-down on everyone else too.


I've been able to leave Steen's blanket off for a few long periods, and his itching is much better. He has stopped rubbing new bare patches and his coat is even growing back in places. Still, he's not 100% over the problem. We had a cold snap recently. After a couple days watching him get notably skinnier every time we went to the barn, I caved and put his blanket back on. The itching came back a little over the next week, but now it's warm and he's naked again and he's already improving. I do think he's not going to be entirely over this until he gets rid of his winter coat.

They're so comfortable together they even get the yawns sometimes. 

Brian's been riding him quite a lot since I've taken over Nevada, and they're getting along really well. It's actually a pretty cool side effect that Brian suddenly has a reason to ride him regularly. Steen has always been so much my horse, and he's a super sensitive, highly emotional fellow to being with. Anyone else riding him gets him flustered. Not to the point that he acts out or can't do his job, but there is a level of refinement I get with him that Brian's never been able to feel. That's starting to smooth out now and they're working well together. It's neat to see. Here's another short video of them riding without reins:


Piper is still a little off. Whatever she did to her shoulder in the fall seemed to recover, but now it seems a little worse again. It's tough because she's not lame, exactly. It's more like she's got kind of a general weirdness to her locomotion that is difficult to trace to any one spot or issue. She's got no specific soreness or injury but something just isn't right. So we're mostly leaving her alone and hoping it will clear up on its own. The conditions in the pasture have been absolutely terrible for months. I don't think it's unreasonable to hope that as things warm up and the environment improves, she'll do the same.


Laredo is the big news. Nothing is 100% settled, but it's looking like he might be relocating to Arizona to move in with my parents and become my sister's main squeeze. Hopefully we'll get the details squared away and get him shipped within the next few weeks.

Horseback Hours YTD: 17:35

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